Readerly Rambles: 21 July 2014

readerly rambles

What I Read: A few weeks ago I finished my first Alice Munro collection, Dear Life. Holy cheeseballs why didn’t I pick up Munro sooner?!?! I’ve mused for weeks how to perfectly sum up this collection and there is nothing I can say that will do it justice. I will try my best to tie this collection together in a simple way. The stories are very much driven by the protagonist and his or her thoughts and interpretations of the the situations they find themselves in, their memories of the past, and the their reactions to those around them. If I had to pick some words to describe the stories — from characters to scenes to dialogue — I would pick words like: interior, close, introspective, circumspect, careful, still, introverted. The “action” doesn’t make the heart of the story so much as the fallout of those actions or the — often unvoiced — choices characters make. The characters are pulled-back, set-apart, alone and it is so very effective. For example, in a story about a woman remembering the death of her sister when they were children, the crux of the action isn’t about the actual death, but rather about the living sister being haunted by her inaction when her sister was in trouble. Another story is narrated by a man (most of the stories have female protagonists) who abruptly leaves a female companion after learning something disturbing about her childhood. The odd and traumatic childhood isn’t the focus, rather it is what drives the protagonist to keep leaving and abandoning people in emotional situations. The first 13 stories in this collection are fiction. The last section, “Dear Life,” is composed of vignettes about Alice Munro’s childhood. I found these tales of babysitters, insomnia, and memory fascinating. I will certainly be picking up more Munro in the future. She is a expert storyteller and can build troubled, sympathetic characters in the style of Patricia Highsmith, Elizabeth Bowen, Shirley Jackson, and Flannery O’Connor. I’m resisting an urge to binge purchased every Munro collection.

What I’m Reading: I’m halfway through Trollope’s Doctor Thorne and it is even better than Barchester Towers and I adored that book. Trollope just keeps getting better and better. I’m set to finish the book this week as long as my reading goes according to plan. I’m beginning to think that Trollope is a good “gateway” book for those intimidated by chunky Victorian novels. Trollope is hilarious and the dialogue rivals the rapier wit of Jane Austen.

I’m also about half-way through listening to Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I’m enjoying it, but I save my audiobooks for when I’m exercising or doing some data-entry like work that I have to do at work. Things were too chaotic to listen to an audiobook at work last week, but I hope to get back to it this week.

Lastly, I started reading the second book in George R R Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series — a Clash of Kings. I’m reading it on my Kindle which means this has become my lunch break, stuck in line, up with the baby at night book. I’ve forbidden myself from reading it at other times because I know I will read too much of it. I want to savor this series and not blow through the entire thing.

What’s Up Next:  I was planning on reading another classic, but between Trollope and reading other large books I feel like I need a break. I was staring at my shelves last night trying to decide what I wanted to read: modern? kids’ book? memoir? I had no idea. Then I saw a book my friend Michelle lent to me ages ago, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. This Pulitzer Prize winning piece of non-fiction is about General Alex Dumas, father to The Count of Monte Cristo author Alexandre Dumas. The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my most favorite classic novels and I’ve read it twice. This sounds both literary AND swashbuckling. I’m 99% sure it will be my next read. Besides, I really need to return the book!

Bookish Miscellany: I’m one pound away from reaching my next weight-loss goal. That means another *new* book purchase. I’ve been only buying books as I stumble upon them at thrift stores and I’m dying to buy books off of my wishlist.  I’ve been buying a book for every five pounds lost. My goal is to lose that pound this week so I can order the Penguin Deluxe Threads edition of Black Beauty. I have all of the Penguin Threads with the exception of Black Beauty and Little Women.

That’s it for this week. Let me know what you’re reading in the comments.

Happy Reading!

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6 comments

  1. I’ve been dying to read something by Trollope since learning about how much you liked him! I’m glad you’re enjoying the second book.

    I love the idea of using books as a reward for weight-loss. I might have to try that. 🙂

  2. There is so much that I love about this post: Trollope, Munro, and the smartest idea ever that I am going to steal ~~books as a weight-loss reward! You have already made my week a better one!! Cheers to you!

    1. Thanks. Cheers in return. Books are pretty much the best motivation for everything. If I wanted to be really serious I would only allow myself as much reading as exercise, but I don’t think I could stick to that.

  3. I read The Warden and Barchester Towers many years ago and fully intended to continue with the series–and didn’t. Your words about Doctor Thorne make me want to get back to it. Maybe I’ll reread Barchester Towers and try to move on.

  4. Just put The Black Count in my wish list. How did I miss hearing about that one? The Count is one of my favorite classics. My daughters’ book club selected it to read over the summer and are supposed to be discussing it in August – I can’t wait to see what a “new generation” thinks of it.

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